Article Text

PDF
Research ethics
The role of ‘public opinion’ in the UK animal research debate
  1. P Hobson-West
  1. Correspondence to Dr P Hobson-West, Centre for Applied Bioethics, School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE12 5RD; Pru.Hobson-West{at}nottingham.ac.uk

Abstract

Animal research remains a deeply controversial topic in biomedical science. While a vast amount has been written about the ethical status of laboratory animals, far less academic attention has been devoted to the public and, more specifically, to public opinion. Rather than what the public think, this article considers the role of ‘public opinion’. It draws on a recent empirical study which involved interviews with laboratory scientists who use animals in their research, and with other UK stakeholders. The first section of the paper demonstrates that public opinion has become a kind of resource in the animal research debate. Public opinion polls, in particular, are frequently cited. The second section explores this further and argues that, for all sides, appealing to public opinion is a key way to show legitimacy. Finally, the paper shifts gear to consider whether public opinion should matter, both for ethical reasoning and for science policy.

Statistics from Altmetric.com

Footnotes

  • Funding This work was supported by a Wellcome Trust fellowship [078876]. The funder had no influence on the study design, data collection, analysis or interpretation, report writing, or decision to publish. The views expressed are the author’s own.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.